There are four ecological functions every landscape must perform if we are to achieve a sustainable relationship with the natural world that supports us (and continuing to insist on landscapes that do not sustain mother nature is not and has never been a realistic option). It’s really very simple; our landscapes must do the things that enable ecosystems to produce the life support we and every other species requires.
This week the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the North American migratory populations of the monarch butterfly as an endangered species. Having declined 75%, 85%, or 95%, depending on which eastern population you are talking about, or over 99% if you are referring to the California monarch, the direction the most iconic butterfly in the world is heading is painfully clear. Monarchs are in trouble both in the north where they breed and in Mexico where they spend the winter months.
In case you haven’t heard, life on earth is in trouble. This is why I am asking you to get on the Homegrown National Park® MAP. Each and every one of us has the power to regenerate biodiversity and we don’t have the luxury of time to do it.
Tom Lovejoy introduced the term biodiversity in 1980 and E. O. Wilson patiently yet persistently worked thereafter to convince us that we cannot live without it. HNP’s grassroots initiative is the call-to-action that will regenerate biodiversity. The time is NOW to plant native and GET ON THE HNP MAP!
Helping Nature Take Its Course
The natural world we encounter today is not the same world we would have encountered 500 years ago, 100 years ago, or even 20 years ago.
When I was a boy (60 yrs ago), I could count on finding a box turtle, a spotted turtle, and several species of salamanders any summer day on a walk through a nearby woodlot. I would have kicked up scores of grasshoppers in the meadow I crossed before I reached that woodlot, and I never worried about picking up a deer tick because I didn’t know what a deer tick was; I had explored those fields and woods for years without ever encountering one. If I saw a white-tailed deer, it would have been a very special day, for they were rare in north central New Jersey where I grew up. I didn’t know much about plants, but nearly all of the species I walked by in those days were native to North Jersey.
In a recent NY Times article, Zoë Schlanger describes a policy shift in managing our national parks, from protecting all species within our parks to picking a choosing which ones we have the resources to save. Climate change is blamed as the culprit that has pushed park managers and budgets beyond their capacity, although most of the actual problems described in the article are caused by invasive species we have brought to this country and would be problematic even without climate change. Climate change is indeed serious management issue, though not the only issue, and it has shown us the limitations of restricting conservation to parks and preserves. Parks are fixed in location, but a changing climate demands flexible responses on the part of plants and animals they are designed to protect. When confined to a fixed space, they lose that flexibility.
I have been asked several times in the last two weeks just when it’s safe to get rid of leaf litter without hurting the insects that have spent the winter within it. An urban legend called the 50 degree rule seems to be very popular these days, but it is just that: an urban legend. I am hearing that all insects will have emerged from your leaf litter or the dead stalks of your meadow plants after varying numbers of days when the daytime temperature is above 50 degrees: 5 consecutive days over 50 degrees, 7-10 days consecutive days above 50, or just several days above 50 whether or not they are consecutive are all popular counts.
I thought I would open this, our first newsletter, with a reiteration of what Homegrown National Park™ is all about, and why it and other conservation efforts around the world are so urgently needed today. There have been 5 great extinction events in the history of life on earth; each one came close to eliminating life altogether and after each one, it took many millions of years for life to rebound in the form of new species.